- Linda Iverson
You'd never know from the lingering 90-degree temperatures, but we're on the cusp of fall. While Utah's various county fairs signal the winding down of summer over the last couple of weeks in August, the Utah State Fair truly marks a transition, as well as being one of the great eclectic family-friendly gatherings Utah has to offer. If it's been a while since you've made your way to a fairgrounds—or maybe you're a State Fair newbie—here's a quick overview of what's in store for you in 2019.
What you get for your admission—and what you don't: It's important to keep in mind that several events that take place on the fairgrounds site and during the State Fair dates are not part of the regular admission price, though buying those special tickets will also get you into the Fair. Utah's Own PRCA Rodeo is an $18 ticket; the Sept. 14 Demolition Derby is a separate ticket at $22-$26. As for the music headliners ... more on them below.
Kid stuff: As you might expect, a whole lot of what goes on at the Utah State Fair is for the young and young at heart, so there's no reason to worry that kids will get bored. A wide range of carnival rides can all be enjoyed, unlimited, for a single price of $22 for all-day access, or $15 for a special "matinee" wristband that's valid from gate opening until 6 p.m. The "Animals of Wizardry" showcase at the Grand Building features presentations about owls, bats, spiders and snakes—and even a live dragon—multiple times daily; kids fond of animals will also enjoy the Extreme Dogs Stunt Show, featuring high diving, weave pole racing and disc catching. Roaming entertainment comes courtesy of mime Chris Yerlig, and magical ventriloquist Jerry Bredeen also performs daily. There's also a chance for young visitors to learn about the work that brings food from a farm to the family table at the "Little Hands on the Farm" exhibit, including a chance to feed animals, pick apples, gather eggs, groom sheep or even drive a tractor; the Barnyard Friends area also offers a chance to interact with young animals, and maybe even feed a calf from a bottle. If you want to nurture their creative side, participants from 2-12 years old can create elaborate edible artistry and possibly win awards in the Hot Dog Decorating Contest.
Exhibits and shows: If you want to see artists at work, every day there are opportunities in the Promontory Building to watch Native beading, woodcarving, oil painting, ceramics and more as talented people create their work. Fairgrounds buildings also provide the venues for agriculture, horticulture and floral exhibits (Agriculture Building), fine arts (Bonneville Building), photography (Grand Building), cooking demonstrations (Zion Building) and more. Also, don't forget that the fair is a place for showing and judging a wide range of animals, including dairy goats, dairy and beef cattle, and lambs.
Live music: More than 40 local music performers—in a range of genres from folk and country to indie rock and blues—get a showcase location on the South Plaza stage from open to close daily, supported by the Salt Lake County Zoo, Arts and Parks (ZAP) tax. The bigger names come out at night, with three national headliners performing full concerts in the Days of '47 Arena for special ticket prices that also include Fair admission. On Wednesday, Sept. 11, Bronx-native artist Prince Royce brings his unique mix of Latin rhythms, pop and R&B (7:30 p.m., $35-$55). Thursday, Sept. 12, gives the stage to Academy of Country Music award-winning group Old Dominion on their "Make It Sweet" Tour (7 p.m., $25-$59). And anyone who has grown up with the radio hits of the '70s and '80s knows the sound of Foreigner, playing tunes like "Juke Box Hero" and "Urgent" on Friday, Sept. 13 (7:30 p.m., $25-$45).
The logistics of your State Fair day: Parking is available on site for $10 per vehicle, but consider avoiding the traffic hassles by taking Trax, where the Green Line has a stop right at Fairpark. Daily Trax Group Passes (good for four people) are available for just $15. Meanwhile, temperatures could still be in the 90s, so plan for comfortable dress, hats, sunscreen and water bottles. There's enough fun to make a full day of it, so make sure that day isn't complicated by sunburn and dehydration.